United States

How One Young Boy Changed the Course of History Forever

A body beaten and battered beyond recognition,  with a swollen face, and missing eyes. That was what Emmett Till’s mother was faced with to determine if the body was that of her sons. Emmett Till was beaten due to an act of Jim Crow laws taking place. These laws prevented Till from fighting back to save his own life. Racism is a hurtful set of things and ideas that dates very far back in our time. Racism is still a prominent issue and exists in today’s world but it is not nearly as bad as it used to be. In which a young boy named, Emmett Till, sparked the entire civil rights movement. The importance of this topic and specifically Emmett Till, is to show the horrors of racial injustice and how one young boy started the civil rights movement.

Segregation is a form of racial injustice, which was a limiting factor from racial equality in the 1930’s. Schools were segregated and different races such as African -American and whites could not mix. Jim Crow laws were state and local regulated laws that enforced segregation. Though these laws may sound crude and inhumane they were the harsh realities of the 1930’s. African-Americans around the country were worried sick and lived in constant fear that they could be discriminated against at any time, just due to the color of their skin. Emmett Till is a young 14 year old boy who was born and raised in 

Chicago. While visiting his family in Mississippi, he was at a country store buying stuff. According to the lady behind the counter Emmett, a African-American, was supposedly flirting with the her. She told her husband and a few days later Emmett Till went missing from his home. Emmett Till’s corpse was found floating down a river a few days later. Emmett’s mother wanted the world to see the horrors performed, so she decided to have an open casket funeral. Emmett with his face beaten beyond recognition lay there motionless while the horrors of this event settle in. This story of this young boy was heard around the world, thanks to Emmett’s mother bringing much needed attention to the situation. Many people believe this horrific atrocity was the one of the core elements to starting the civil rights movement as we know it.

Jim Crow laws were put into effect after the reconstruction period, limiting African-Americans and other minorities on what they could do. Things such as entertainment to water fountains were separated into white and colored sections. With the rise of these Jim Crow laws also saw an incline of lynchings. Lynching is when a group or mob forces punishment onto someone who allegedly performed a crime. When people hear lynching their minds tend to gravitate toward hangings, even though hangings were the most popular form of lynching, there were other forms as well.  Lynching is a horrific thing or action performed by a group of people in the south, but it is even worse when it’s performed on a 14 year old defenseless boy. “African American from Chicago, is brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman four days earlier.”. This was a headline from a newspaper posted in Mississippi after Emmett Till was killed. Not only local newspapers were reporting this story but news stations around the world. The situation also received much more attention when Emmett’s mother had the idea to display his body at his funeral to expose the world to these atrocities.

This young boy opened the eyes of not only America but the world’s leading to the beginning of the civil rights movement. Thanks to Emmett Till’s mother for having the brilliant idea of having an open casket funeral, people’s eyes were opened. Nearly 50,000 people were in attendance of this funeral just to see what had happened to this poor young boy. “The Emmett Till murder trial brought to light the brutality of Jim Crow segregation in the South and was an early impetus of the African-American civil rights movement.”(History.com). Huge political motivators such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. used this situations to gain speed and momentum with the civil rights movements. People across the country used this as fire to rally and mobilize this civil rights movement. Even Emmett Till’s mother became a political and motivational speaker, talking about her son’s death and racial inequality.

The importance of this topic and specifically Emmett Till, is to show the horrors of lynching and how one young boy sparked the civil rights movement. This young boy had horrendous things done to him and no one was held accountable for these actions at the time. More people around the globe should realize the horrors that the people of the 1930’s went through. Being African-American in this time period, especially in the south was very dangerous and people should recognize what these humans had to live through. People in America should know about Emmett Till and realize that he was one of the motivations for the civil rights movement.

Article by Wyatt Couch

Works Cited

“Emmett Till.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 19 Jan. 2018, www.biography.com/people/emmett-till-507515.

“Emmett Till Is Murdered.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-death-of-emmett-till.

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “Emmett Till’s Open Casket Funeral Reignited the Civil Rights Movement.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 2 Sept. 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/emmett-tills-open-casket-funeral-reignited-the-civil-rights-movement-180956483/.

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